the criticisms of Donald Rumsfeld by retired generals are another example of the violation of traditional norms that have served our country. Such criticisms both undermine civilian control of the military and can be exploited by our enemies. Norms of this sort are important and valuable but are increasingly ignored. Retired Presidents used to avoid strongly criticizing the current President, especially when the criticisms would be made on foreign soil and would be about foreign relations. But Presidents Clinton and Carter are happy to do it.
I suppose that the country will continue to exist, even though these norms are violated. But the nation will change for the worse. It will be harder to stay unified and to deal with one another in a civil way. And that, in the long run, is a big concern.
My reaction: The generals' criticisms of Rumsfeld won't make the nation worse off. Rather, they are symptoms of the already decrepit condition of the nation. In fact, as nationhood used to be understood, we no longer have a nation -- as evidenced, to take but one example, by the Left's resistance to the war on terror. What we have is a geographically defined collection of regionally, ethnically, politically, and culturally diverse identity groups. In that respect, what we ironically call the United States has become less coherent than at any time since the Civil War.